Investigating Hydrate Formulas Through Empirical Analysis

Categories: Chemistry


Hydrates are fascinating compounds characterized by their unique ability to chemically bond water molecules to another substance. This intrinsic property not only defines their chemical structure but also influences their physical behavior and applications. The study of hydrates, particularly determining their formulas, is a fundamental aspect of chemical education, offering insights into the stoichiometric relationships between the hydrate and its anhydrous form. This investigation aimed to elucidate the percentage of water in a hydrate and, through empirical analysis, establish the hydrate's formula, focusing on Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4) as the compound of interest.


The primary objectives of this laboratory exercise were to:

  1. Remove water from a given hydrate sample.
  2. Predict the hydrate's formula based on empirical data.
  3. Calculate both the experimental and theoretical percentages of water in the hydrate.

Materials and Methods

Materials Required

The experiment necessitated a comprehensive set of tools and materials, including:

  • The hydrate sample (Magnesium Sulfate)
  • A ring stand, medium ring, and wire gauze
  • An evaporating dish and watch glass
  • A Bunsen Burner with hose and flint striker
  • An analytical balance and crucible tongs
  • A stopwatch or clock, along with distilled water for cleanup

Safety Precautions

Strict safety protocols were observed throughout the experiment.

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Goggles were worn to protect eyes from potential hazards, and hot equipment was handled with crucible tongs to prevent burns. The hydrate was treated as a potentially hazardous material, avoiding direct contact with skin, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Experimental Procedure

The procedure was meticulously designed to ensure accurate results:

  1. The evaporating dish and watch glass were cleaned, dried, and weighed.

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  2. The hydrate sample was added, and the combined mass recorded.
  3. The sample was heated in five-minute intervals, cooled, and reweighed until consecutive masses differed by less than 0.01g.
  4. The process was repeated for a second sample to ensure reliability.


Post-experiment cleanup involved disposing of the anhydrate in the trash and thoroughly rinsing the glassware with distilled water before drying and storage.

Results and Analysis

The experiment's critical phase involved calculating the mass of the hydrate, the anhydrate, and the evaporated water. These values facilitated the determination of moles for both the anhydrate (MgSO4) and the water, subsequently allowing for the calculation of the hydrate's water content percentage and the formula unit ratio of water to MgSO4.

Data Analysis

Data from two trials indicated a consistent pattern of water loss, leading to a calculated average percentage of water in the hydrate of 39.47%. The theoretical percentage, derived from stoichiometric calculations, was 51.16%, resulting in a percent error of 22.85%. This discrepancy was attributed primarily to experimental errors, possibly from handling the apparatus, which could have introduced additional mass or led to premature evaporation of water.

Masses of Anhydrates After Heating
Trial 1 Evaporating Dish + Watch Glass w/o Hydrate 141.0522g
Trial 1 E.D. + W.G. w/ hydrate 142.9468g
Trial 1, Heating 1 142.2500g
Trial 1, Heating 2 142.1879g
Trial 1, Heating 3 142.1862g
Trial 2 Evaporating Dish + Watch Glass w/o Hydrate 140.9339g
Trial 2 E.D. + W.G. w/ hydrate 143.0581g
Trial 2, Heating 1 142.4036g
Trial 2, Heating 2 142.2857g
Trial 2, Heating 3 142.2508g
Trial 2, Heating 4 142.2341g


The laboratory exercise successfully demonstrated the process of determining a hydrate's formula through dehydration and subsequent analysis. The average experimental percentage of water in Magnesium Sulfate was significantly lower than the theoretical value, highlighting the challenges inherent in empirical methodologies. The identified sources of error underscore the importance of rigorous experimental protocol and the potential impact of seemingly minor factors, such as the handling of equipment, on the accuracy of results.


This investigation into the properties of hydrates provided valuable hands-on experience in chemical analysis, reinforcing the theoretical principles underlying hydrate chemistry. Despite the noted experimental error, the exercise achieved its objectives, offering practical insights into the calculation of hydrate formulas and the critical analysis of empirical data. The skills and knowledge gained through this experiment are applicable beyond the classroom, enhancing problem-solving abilities and fostering a deeper understanding of chemical processes.

Updated: Feb 27, 2024
Cite this page

Investigating Hydrate Formulas Through Empirical Analysis. (2024, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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